MANAGING DIVERSITY AT SPENCER OWENS & CO.PROBLEM STATEMENT:In what ways can Agnes Richards solve the problem of diversity in her company and set a new course that reduces the problems and ensures a smooth functioning in the organisation to reinstate the focus on company’s mission and values.DIVERSITY: It means understanding that each individual is unique and that we recognize our individual differences. These differences can be of race, gender, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs etc. Diversity means exploring these differences positively.
The concept of diversity revolves around Acceptance and Respect. It means understanding each other, accepting the differences and moving beyond the stigmas to respect and embrace the diversity.Spencer Owens ; Co.
What did Spencer Owens do to bring in diversity?Spencer Owens’ past shows that they’ve put in enormous amount of efforts to diversify their work force. The company strategized on bringing racial, ethnic and gender diversity from entry level to executive ranks. Prior to this strategy being implemented, the company had an all-white executive male team.
To implement the plan, the company set hiring goals, communicating them to all employees and creating accountability. This in turn, created an opportunity for people of colour and women to establish their career.Spencer Owens was considered to have the most diverse staff in the industry in 1995 with 75 out of the firm’s 150 professionals being women and 30% being people of colour. Also, people of colour who were hired into entry level positions, were promoted to managerial positions.
4 out of the 12-person executive team were women and 3 were people of colour. Spencer Owens knew that the key to diversity within the company was to build the staff by instituting goals affirmatively, along with aggressive hiring and practices of advancement that set high qualification and performance hurdles.What is the scene now? Why are the tensions rising?Spencer Owens started witnessing great changes in the diverse nature of the organisation and also started encountering various problems and issues. In 2000, the company hired Agnes Richards, who was Spencer Owen’s first woman executive director in 45 years. One of the first steps that she took was to initiate ‘sensitivity training’. In addition, she embraced employees’ efforts to form networking groups.
Over the next three years, she noticed that the changes that were being made were not fruitful, and also, they were affecting the productivity of the company. She noticed friction among race relations, people of colour were bringing charges of racism against the white workers and the frequency of complaints by the networking groups was disturbing. In addition to this, Richards fired an African-American female manager due to her history of being late and for portraying a bad attitude. At that point, the employees became angry and frustrated.
Due to these problems, Richards decided to hire consultants to study the firm’s gender and race relations. The interviews revealed:• Employees had numerous concerns about affirmative action initiative• Some white employees believed that the quality of work was being adversely affected by bringing in diversity• White program staff feared that the organisation was being pulled away from its original mission and values• People of colour were critical of the affirmative action program. They had a feeling that they were tolerated rather than being accepted• People of colour feel that their ideas are not respected and are ignored easily• The fear of being called a racist in white communityRoot Cause of the Problem? The employees wanted to feel accepted and understood, but that wasn’t happening. With the implementation of sensitivity trainings and follow up discussions, the team’s views regarding action goals got covered by a veil of diversity. The idea of network group was a great one, but it wasn’t executed properly.
It could have helped the employees gel together, share their experiences and feelings about the organisation; good or bad, and suggest ideas to improve them. Instead, these groups became shields for women and the minority group, not merely to protect them from any injustice, but to enjoy the power.Also, the employees wanted a fair treatment, to be understood and respected for the contributions they were making.
SWOT LISTING Weakness1. Prejudices in the organisation2. Poor attendance of sensitive training3. Attitude problem in employees4. Decreasing quality of workFACTORS POSING VARIOUS CHALLANGES1. Employee concerns: White employees have a feeling that the diversity program is having an effect on the quality of work.
2. Friction amongst race relations leading to complaints.3. Bad attitude: Employees became more aggressive and furious which affected the productivity of business.
4. Retaliation: the fear of being called racist amongst the employees5. Resistance of senior managers: The senior managers did not want a cultural shift which made it difficult to bring a change in the existing diversified culture.6. Execution: networking amongst various diverse groups was a good idea but the execution was not done properly.
CRITICAL FACTORS1. Networks: the most important factor that posed a challenge was an improper execution. The diversity program could have helped in expressing feelings but instead they become defenders due to difference of perception and opinion.
2. Employees: Employees wanted a feeling of belongingness, equal and fair treatment, and a sense of contribution.3. Stereotyping: Any constructive feedback could lead to employees taking it as a criticism and feeling offended.
POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS:1. Managing Diversity: To target young people of colour and women who have recently completed college. They can be good potential employees. By this we can make sure that the diversity is maintained.
2. Mentoring Sessions: It is not possible to expect a change when all of the employees are not involved. Providing mentorship sessions by mixing people from all levels and people of colour with the whites, may initiate a feeling of belongingness and togetherness.3. Merit based Rewards: Performance evaluation should be based on behaviour and attitude towards work.
Rewarding the employees who meet the performance standards in the best way possible can motivate employees to work harder.4. Referral Programmes: Employees can refer other good candidates and the employers can select the ones of same race or background who deem fit for the job.5.
Diversity Training: Such programs can educate employees in understanding the results of their efforts. In this way, the employees who do not have a direct benefit in the company being diversified, can understand that they still have a stake in program’s success.6. Company Norms: focusing on the practices that emphasize on equality and teamwork can be beneficial.7. Network Groups: Reinstating the network groups and controlling their working, making sure that the power given to them is not being taken for granted.
CHOICE OF OPTION:1. Merit based Rewards: various steps to reduce the negative effects of stereotyping should be undertaken. Rewarding the groups on the basis of their behaviour and attitude towards work, and also to accomplish group goals might motivate them to work in a team and focus on the common objectives irrespective of differences in caste, religion, race or gender.
The team will recognize both, the learning opportunities as well as the challenges faced, due to the presence of different perspectives. Also, the organisational culture must be modified in ways that it stimulates personal development and it must create an expectation of high standards from everyone.COURSE OF ACTION:Richards must realise that organisational effectiveness cannot be increased merely by increasing demographic variation. She should realise that the promise is delivered by how the company defines diversity and what it does with the experiences it gains by being a diverse organisation. They should incorporate employees’ perspectives into the working routine and not just work according to the pre-set norms.